Carolina Panthers’ Youth Movement Should Involve WR Stephen Hill


When the Carolina Panthers signed WR Stephen Hill to their practice squad back in September, I honestly thought he would have found his way onto the 53-man roster by now.

Alas, 13 games later, Hill is nowhere to be found on Sundays.  However, with the recent purging of veterans in favor of younger players, perhaps now is the time to pull the trigger on activating Stephen Hill.

The third-year receiver has the measurables  scouts and fans drool over.  6’4″, 215-pounds, 4.36 40-time, and only 23-years old.

Yes, he came here with a lot of work to do in order to become a better receiver.

Hill was cast aside by the New York Jets on August 30th, and scooped up by the Panthers on September 3rd.  Carolina had no intentions of thrusting Hill into the lineup earlier this year, with the veterans Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery already onboard.

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A lot can change over three months with an offense that has sputtered more than surged.

Head Coach Ron Rivera has to look no further than the positive results seen over the past two games, after the release of veterans at other positions.

Wide receiver Jason Avant was released three weeks ago, and in the two games since his departure, rookie Philly Brown has stepped in with better results.  In his first two games since Avant’s release, Brown has caught five passes, for 76-yards and one touchdown.

The same kind of optimism has been noticed in the Carolina secondary as well.

Rookie Bene Benwikere, a fifth-round selection out of San Jose State, was promoted to starting cornerback after Antoine Cason‘s release.

Immediately, ‘Big Play Bene’ made an impact, by picking-off a Drew Brees pass on Sunday.   He also finished the game with eight tackles.

Tre Boston, the fourth-round rookie safety out of North Carolina has also been thrust into the Panthers’ lineup.  Incumbent, Thomas DeCoud‘s play has been frustrating this year, so a call to the bullpen was made here as well.

Boston hasn’t set the box scores on fire, but he has lit up a few receivers over the past two weeks.  With Roman Harper at his side, Boston has looked comfortable and in control of his assignments.  He is far from a finished product, but his play has helped ease the memories of DeCoud’s rough year in Carolina.

Back to Stephen Hill.

The 23-year old receiver has spent over three months learning Mike Shula’s offense.  He has had two veteran receivers for most of the season showing him the ropes in practice.  Beyond that, Receivers Coach Ricky Proehl is a great mentor and molder of abilities.

It’s hard to imagine that Hill has been doing so awfully bad that players such as DeAndre Presley and Joe Webb are getting burn.

Presley is a 5’10”, converted cornerback that has zero-receptions this year, and one rush for negative-two yards.  With Brown’s emergence, there’s too much redundancy to have Presley activated.

We knew what the Panthers were getting when they acquired Stephen Hill.

A player with a ton of raw talent, but needed proper tutelage to refine his game.  He has logged 23-games in the NFL prior to Carolina, and has shown flashes of brilliance.

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Unfortantely, drops, poor route running, and lack of shielding defenders properly have overshadowed the flashes.

At this point, the Carolina Panthers have their WR1 on the roster in Kelvin Benjamin, and Brown should be an ideal slot receiver for Carolina, moving forward.

Now, if the Panthers could just find a speedy compliment to Benjamin on the opposite side, they would be set.

Well, Stephen Hill is 6’4″ and runs a sub 4.4 40-time.  Hill also has more NFL receptions and production than Webb, Presley and Bersin combined.

Yet, he sits on a practice squad.

At this point, the Panthers are 3-for-3 in turning back the clock, and shaking up the roster.  I love Jerricho Cotchery, as an NCSU-guy, but he could continue to be a veteran presence from the sideline.  In his first year for the Panthers, Cotch is averaging less-than-three receptions and 39-yards, per game.

Not really what I would consider a high-octane weapon for Cam Newton.

I think it does more damage to leave the potential talent like Stephen Hill on the bench, when he could yield the exact kind of receiver that Carolina needs on this roster.  He’s tall, fast and young enough to give the Panthers their WR2 of the future.